Monday, June 25, 2012

Happy Monday! The blogs are delayed by one day this week due to the fact I was working out of town this past weekend and didn't get in until almost 11pm last night...I figured no one would be reading a Cake Blog at midnight so I sent myself to bed instead! LOL!

First let me say again...Congrats Mr. & Mrs. Albert! We are so happy for you and so pleased you included us in your wedding day! The photo above is their wedding cake...the studio version. I always photograph my cakes before they are delivered just in case I get hit by a semi and the cake is destroyed...just covering my this was the first photo I took of it. It definitely wasn't the last. 

This cake feeds 96. The bottom tier is a 10x10x4. It feeds 50 all by itself! Then the next tier is a hex 8x4 and it feeds 30. Then the top tier is a 6x4 which feeds 16. The standard "party" cake is only 2 inches tall so you would cut 2x2 inch slices of a party cake. Not so with a wedding cake. They are 4 inches tall so the slices have to be half that width or 1 inch. A 2 inch cut of a 4 inch tall cake is a massive piece of cake so as you increase in height you need to decrease in width in order to get a normal dessert size piece of cake. 

The bottom tier is Mexican Hot Chocolate cake with Chocolate Brownie Buttercream filling. Along with the "standard" wedding type words like Love Honor Cherish, were personal words the couple wanted like their cute "Celebrity Name" of Dashn. Running inside joke with their friends and a way to make the cake so much more personal for just them. I do have a "Cricut" machine which cuts out the letters for me but anyone who owns one of these knows that this is not where the work stops. Once you get the cut outs you have to clean them up. Just like cutting out a wood piece with a saw, you have to sort of "sand" the edges so you get a clean look in the end. It takes a bit more work to get a clean look but, believe me, it's still easier than cutting it all out by hand like I have done in the past.

The middle tier is French Vanilla cake with Strawberry Cream buttercream filling. The Bride loved the look of quilting so I "quilted" the fondant and added candy pearls to it with royal icing. In your local cake store, and maybe even at Michaels, you will find molds and forms for your cake decorating. The template I used basically looks like a plastic rectangle with raised cross hatched lines on it. Once your cake is covered with the buttercream or fondant you let it set up a bit to get a little bit more firm. Then you gently press the template form to the cake to make the impressions. After that I went over the lines with a detail tool so the lines would be uniform in depth. Then I dotted white royal icing at the junctions on each side and, with my special pearl/bead tweezers, I added the pearls. This whole process doesn't take too long but it does take paying attention to detail. You want all of your lines to line up, all to look uniform and all to have the pearl at the junctions. It takes a little time but the effect is so worth it!

The top tier was the hardest tier. It is Red Velvet cake with Vanilla buttercream filling. All of the details on this tier are royal icing. There is no easy way to tell you how to do this type of draping on a cake. Go to Youtube and look up the videos and then just practice over and over again. Keep a moist cake paintbrush at the ready since, as you drape the royal icing, you will have your lines break, over and over again. Just clean it up and do it again until you get the right drape. The trick is to mark the join marks before you start the draping and then meet each mark. The videos will show you how to do this accurately. Once this was done I added all the many little dots from the center of the cake down the sides. These little details are what make the cake so take the time and effort to do them. It's worth it in the end. 

The tiers are all covered in Tiffany Blue Vanilla Marshmallow Fondant. They don't make a "Tiffany Blue" gel food dye yet...although I'm sure someone out there is working on you have to mix your colors yourself. I found that "sky blue" along with a drop or two of "leaf green" works to create the right color of blue. If possible, get a sample from your Bride of her ribbon or, in my case, her wedding invitation. I matched the color exactly to make sure I had it right. Always add less dye than you think you will need since, as the fondant sets up overnight, it will darken a bit and you don't want the color to change too much. 

The white "ribbon" trim is the next part I need to explain. When you cover a cake with fondant you are not covering it on the display board or plate. You cover it on another surface like a turntable and then, after it's decorated, you transfer it to either the board or plate or you stack it on top of another tier. To do this you use a spatula under the cake and when you pull it out from under the cake it WILL pull a bit of the fondant away from the cake. If you have added the ribbon trim before you move your cake then the spatula will put the part of the ribbon off of your cake and you will need to fix it. Instead of having to fix it just wait till you have moved it before adding the trim. This is the same advice if you are trimming with buttercream instead of fondant. So I moved the bottom tier over to the cake board first and then trimmed it with the "ribbon". The other tiers were decorated on a turntable and then stacked before the "ribbon" was added. 

And just a word about stacking. I have to confess that, other than delivering the cake, I hate stacking cakes. Cakes, by the simple reason that they are cake and can't be "perfectly level" and stay that way, are not level. Here are some tricks I use to make it easier. First, when baking, I make sure to trim the cake while it is still in the pan so that right away it is level. I have a mini level that I bought, sterilized, and ONLY use for caking. I use that several times in the process of making the cakes and then again when I stack them. I check them before they go into the wrap and into the freezer, again after I fill them and again after I cover them. (Remember to test your surfaces to make sure they are level as well or your cake will not be level). However, this is cake. It continues to settle as IT wishes even if you check it every step of the way. Not much but enough that when you look at them stacked you will know there is something off even if you can't pinpoint it. You want people to look at your cakes and think "How gorgeous" not "what is wrong with that cake?" So the last trick I use is when I put the dowels into the cakes. Each tier has 4 dowels in it and the dowels and the cake rounds that each tier sits upon are what create the structure that holds up the stacked cake. So the cakes don't sit on top of each other but rather their bases sit upon the dowels of the lower tier. So I place the dowels into the cake and, using a clean new cake round (little pieces of food grade cardboard) set on top of the dowels, I check to see if it is level from several angles. If it is not then I cut new dowels that are taller to adjust the level of the cake. Once it is totally level I remove the new cake round and stack the next tier on top. I continue this process till I reach the top tier. 

Now I have a Cake Safe which you can find at which has a steel dowel that goes down into the center of the cake and holds it steady for transport. If the cake has a topper such as a monogram or flowers then you can stack the entire cake and put the center dowel into it for transport. When you arrive just remove it and attach your toppers. If you don't have a cake safe you can use a slightly sharpened dowel as your center dowel and it only needs to be removed for cake service. However, if the cake doesn't have a topper then you will need to insert your center dowel into the lower tiers and stack the top tier on site. Fortunately this one had flowers and a monogram so I was able to transport it the 150 miles to the venue safely with no problems.

The flowers are sugar flowers. Yes, as always, they have to be done a few days ahead so that they are completely dry and solid when needed for the cake. I carried them in a special travel container to the venue and, with royal icing, added them at the event site. The monogram was purchased by the client and then sent to me so I would have it for placement at the venue before event began. There are two ways I have found to make sugar roses. One is with a rose "cutter" that looks like a five petaled flower. You ruffle the edges and sort of "fold" the petals around the center bud. You do this for a few layers to make a full flower with graduating cutters. I'm not fond of this method. Roses have individual petals that each have their own characteristics. I prefer to cut out my own rounds and make each petal individually, ruffle them individually and attach them one at a time. Not everyone's way but it works for me. More work, yes, but worth it to me.
And here is the final presentation at the venue. A wonderful engagement photo sat to one side of the cake and the cutting set and a "Tossing" bouquet (the Bride gave her original bouquet to her Grandmother who was celebrating 56 years of married bliss with the Bride's Grandfather on the same day!) was on the other. It looked right at home and the Bride was thrilled....what more can a caker ask?

So Congrats Ashley and Dan! Hope you are enjoying your Honeymoon!

Next week I'll be sharing a new treat with the recipe!


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Sunday and HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to all of you Dads in the USA! Hope you are celebrated for all you do for your families!

This week I had a Father's Day cake with an unusual theme...STEAMPUNK! That's sort of the whole Jules Verne 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea theme. With Steampunk there is always a lot of metallic colors, gears, nuts, bolts and, of course, sea creatures also made of metal. The hard part was thinking of a new way to put these all together into a small Father's Day cake.

I've seen some pretty sensational Steampunk Weddings that had towering cakes filled with metal covered boxes, tentacles and metal parts. They really are something to see so if you have time head out to Google and look up Steampunk Wedding Cakes and take a look at all of the really incredible works of art that are out there! But for Father's Day you usually only have a single tiered cake because you only have a few people to feed over dinner. This means you don't have much of a base to show off the Steampunk decorations.

I chose the hex shape because it looked as much like a "part" as I could find in a cake pan. So I decided that it would be a "nut" with smokestacks in the middle with an octopus bursting out of the middle and taking it over. The cake itself is a 2 inch marble cake with no filling.  Now here is the secret...the "smokestacks" are fondant covered columns...just like the kind that you put in between tiers of a wedding cake. I just covered them in strips of fondant and then detailed them with a fondant tool and little "bolts" and then painted it all with a bronze luster dust I had made into paint with a bit of vodka.

The other pieces had to be hand molded and then allowed to dry before being painted so I started on them at the beginning of the week so that by yesterday, when I put the cake together, they would be solid enough to stand up on their own. This was not without issues though. The metallic finish didn't respond well to my gluing methods. I tried buttercream and they slid right off. Then royal icing and they popped right off. Finally water and just held each piece in place till they stuck. Tedious but it finally worked. 

Here is the secret to the "popping out of the center" part. I crumbcoated the cake and when it was dry I brushed on water on the sides and about two inches in from the edge on the top, leaving the middle of the top of the cake dry. The fondant adheres where there is water to glue it down and is still loose where it doesn't. I mapped out where I wanted the edges of the inside of the "nut" to be and painted the whole thing silver. When that was dry I used an exacto knife, used only for baking, to cut the star burst pattern into the fondant in the center of the cake that wasn't painted silver. I, very gently, pulled these pieces back so that they "rolled" over the line of silver paint. I made sure that some curled out further than others to make it look like it's "bursting" out. I then inserted the smokestacks down into the cake and filled in around those with buttercream to give them more stability. Then began the process of adding the detail pieces.

With all "art" you have to sort of wing it when it comes to actually putting the pieces onto a cake like this. You have a general idea of what you want the cake to look like but in the end you are really thinking "yeah, that looks right" or "nope, that doesn't work there" as you are placing them onto the cake. This is what makes your cake look individual in the end. No one else will ever have one exactly like yours. This is what makes it a work of Art.

This upcoming week brings a Tiffany Wedding Cake! I think you all will love this one!


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Happy Sunday! And Happy Graduation to all of you out there who are celebrating this weekend! I know several Seniors, both High School and College who got their diplomas this week include this one for a Nursing School Graduate!

This 8 inch square white cake with vanilla buttercream filling was needed on short notice so I was able to put it together for them in time but without my normal drying time for the fondant. The bottom square cake was frosted with buttercream and then three lines of decorative piping was added. The "cap" part is black fondant covered cake while the "mortar" board is actually black fondant covered cardboard. I used a toothpick to hold the board to the cap and dotted it with a round ball of fondant after looping my "tassle" round the toothpick first. With only 2 days to let the fondant dry there was just no way I was going to be able to have a fully fondant mortar board for the cap. 

The tassle is quite easy and something I have used on grad caps, curtains, and purses. I mixed quite a bit of tylose into the yellow fondant and then rolled it out dime thin on the board. Then I used a straight cutter to cut off the edges making for a 4x3 inch rectangle. From there I used the straight cutter to cut lines almost through the rectangle leaving about a quarter inch intact. Then I rolled the fondant up and made a strip of fondant to wrap around the top. Finally I rolled a small bit out as the string on the tassle, curved that around the toothpick and then used water to attach it to the tassel. I made it small enough so that most of the weight of the tassel was resting on the board and not hanging off so it would continue to dry on the board.

Then it was just the piping that needed to be done. A word about piping skills. This is the one thing about cakes that I truly don't like doing. Mainly because I sorta suck at it so I find it to be difficult to do. BUT, having said that I have to admit that the more I pipe, the better I get. I don't seem to like it any more than I ever did but I have gotten better with the practice. If you are like me and don't particularly like your piping skills there is just one way to get over it...practice. Either on a piping board or on cakes if you do enough often enough not to get rusty. Yes, there are Cricuit machines out there and that can help remove some of the issues. You can use them to cut out fondant and apply those to the cake...BUT...if you try to cut out any smaller than a half inch then it doesn't work all that well so you will be forced to pipe at that you might as well practice and make it part of your own personal tool box.

Lastly, IF you find yourself needing a last minute cake you can always frost it and then use "toppers" to decorate with instead of handmade figures. There are plenty of Grad Cap or Grad decorations you can use that you can pick up at your local Michaels or cake store that you just place on top of your completed cake. Will it feel as good as handmaking them yourself...well, no...but if you don't have the time it would be worse to try to make the items, fail and then feel even worse about yourself than just popping down to the store and picking up what you need. 

I do try to make sure I have at least a month to make any decorations that I need but in cases like these...basically an emergency where their A Plan fell through...I was able to come to the rescue with just a couple days prep time. Not ideal but sometimes that's just the way it works out. If you find yourself in that situation always remember that the looks of the cake, while important, will never be more important than the taste of the cake. And a homemade cake will always be better than one you get at the grocery store. 

Next week is Father's Day and we have Grand Plans in our house for a very special cake! I'll share it with you next weekend!


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Happy Sunday! Here we are in June already! How did THAT happen? My summer season is here and I'm fairly booked up. I do have a few free weeks that I will be grateful that I scheduled in for myself but other than that I am having fun creating a new cake each week.

This week I got to make a cake for someone who is leaving their community after about 20 years of living there. All of her friends and neighbors decided that she needed a proper send off. She's a very "girly" girl so it was decided that flowers and swirls would be perfect for this small cake for 15 guests.

Free form swirls or filigree can be a real challenge. I know this comes easily for some but not for me. Fortunately I'm not alone in this world and they have made cookie cutter type presses that you gently press into the surface of the cake and they leave a template that you then follow over with your icing. It makes it SO much easier and worry free when you have a cake like I did this week. Now I started with a #4 tip for the main swirls and then went down to a #2 for the finer swirls. Those I did do freehand. 

The "flowers" on here are fantasy flowers. Sort of like hydrangea but not really. I cut them out of white fondant and then, while still soft, I used pink and purple luster dust to color them. Then I used a hydrangea press to form the flowers with lines and depth and then let them set up a bit while I decorated the cake.  I did use two sizes of flower cutters. One for the larger flowers for the large rosettes on top and one for the flower trim. By the time I had smooth frosted the final coat of buttercream on this strawberries and cream cake and then used the presses for the filigree, piped all the green swirls and edging, the flowers were ready to go on the cake. 

I want to take just a minute to talk about trim. For this cake I used the same tip, an open face star tip, to create the bottom edge trim as well as the top edge trim. But on the bottom edge I made little rosettes and on the top edge I used looping swirls all the way around in two bands. I did an outer band first and then, slightly overlapping, an inner band of swirls. Along with the large rosettes on the upper sides, this allowed for a nice base for the flowers when it came time to add them to the cake. The point is that you don't have to use the same pattern for each edge of your cake. You don't have to use the same pattern all the way around your cake. There are plenty of tip tutorials online that will show you many different patterns you can make with all of your tips so you can mix and match as you please. One of the reasons I do so rarely use a "shell border"...there are just too many others that you can play with instead!

The last step was adding the candy pearls to the center of the flowers with dots of green buttercream and then to write the salutation. I'm pleased to say that I actually know Rosie and am one of those who were sad to hear she was leaving us. But how's this for a turn of events? When I arrived to deliver the cake I was told that she had changed her mind and was staying after all! How much fun to be able to eat the cake and be happy she was staying at the same time! 

Next week is Grad Week! I have pieces for one already drying for the cake topper that I will share with you all next Sunday!